By Walid al-Bounni
With less than six weeks until the Geneva Conference 2 on Syria, no one knows who is going to negotiate with whom. What are the bases for these negotiations? Which countries are attending? What is the nature of the transitional governance body to be established at the conference?
Is it necessary that the six points agreed upon in at the Geneva 1 conference be executed prior to Geneva 2, or is everything on the negotiating table? In other words, are we going to negotiate the release of prisoners, especially the women and children? Are we negotiating over each person?
Will the siege be lifted, or will it be left up to negotiations? What will the regime demand in order to allow milk and humanitarian aid into the besieged areas such as Deraa, and all the besieged towns in Ghouta surrounding the capital?
All these questions must be answered before the start of the Geneva 2 conference; it is truly the conference to end the suffering of Syrians. According to Geneva sponsors, nothing has been resolved yet. Everything is open for discussion between the parties involved. We know that one of the parties, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, committed the massacre in Nabek and thousands of other massacres in the last 30 months. This regime is responsible for the death of more than two hundred thousand Syrians, with the support of sectarian militias and financial contributions from Iran. If the regime wanted, or rather— more accurately—if the international community is able to force the regime to give the orders to release all prisoners and lift the siege on the hungry, it could happen.
If the international community wanted, and everyone knows this, it could pressure the regime to agree on a transitional government with full authority and the power to control security and military forces, as well as strip the regime of all its powers.
With these powers, the regime has destroyed half of Syria and murdered, tortured and mutilated hundreds of thousands of its citizens. If the international community provides guarantees to end the violence, then and only then can Geneva 2 be a window of hope to save the Syrian nation-state.
Geneva 2 can set the stage for a government that guarantees the unity of Syria according to the official geographic determination of the Syrian nation. But the conference must also guarantee that Syria will be the home of all Syrians, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds. If that was the case, wouldn’t the Syrian politicians and lawmakers be focusing on how to form the auspicious interim government?
Unfortunately, those preaching in favor of Geneva 2 still insist that nothing is predetermined before the conference. They also insist that the opposition must form its negotiating delegation and sit down with the man whom the whole international community acknowledged has committed massacres and used chemical weapons against civilians in the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus. The same people insist that the parties need not first execute the terms of the first Geneva Conference, but must only negotiate them. They insist upon this even after numerous pro-regime people have declared that Bashar al-Assad will remain in his position, leading the transitional phase. So what will really happen at Geneva 2 won’t be more anything more than expanding the regime’s current government by adding a few chairs from the opposition. But the constitution won’t be amended.
While all the opposition forces are busy forming their negotiating delegation, the Coalition wants to form its delegation keeping in mind that many countries recognize it as the official representative of the Syrian people. In contrast, the National Coordination Committee refuses to attend the conference as part of the Coalition’s delegation. Moreover, Qadri Jameel and Rifaat al-Assad appear to have taken a keen interest in being a part of the opposition delegation at the conference. At the same time, the Free Syrian Army declared that it will refrain from attending the conference.
In addition to the Free Syrian Army, other executive forces controlling the liberated zones in Syria also refuse to recognize the political opposition as being their legal representatives. Many of its army staff members retreated after the chiefs of staff identified the Coalition as an umbrella political party.
Under such circumstances, any party that will attend the Geneva 2 conference without the consent of the revolutionary forces fighting on ground will be of no significance. So along with the international community’s antipathy toward setting the Geneva 1 terms as a precondition for convening Geneva 2, the negotiating delegation will be weak, it will lack the support of the military forces, and it won’t be capable of securing any benefits for the Syrian people and for the revolution.
Under those circumstances, the Geneva 2 conference will only restore the legitimacy to the Syrian regime’s tyrant. At the same time, it will sap whatever legitimacy is left from both the Coalition and the National Coordination Committee, thus eliminating the presence of any moderate Syrian opposition and pulling Syria into two polarized camps. One side will be the Syrian regime and its associated economic mafia, supported by Hezbollah and the Iranian and Iraqi sectarian militias. The other side will be the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, the Nusra Front, and the other Islamic factions who are in control of the liberated areas. With the insistence of the regime’s allies on continuing their support with men and money, and with the well-known stubbornness of the Islamic militants, the continued destruction of a Somali-ized Syria will become a reality. All this has contributed to a US that is indifferent to the Syrian people’s suffering while the Russians look to restore their nation’s role as a superpower at the expense of Syrian blood and future Syrian generations.
So finally, here is some advice to all you wise Syrians: “Unite wherever you are to save what can still be saved. The upcoming stage is crucial to our nation’s future. You cannot turn a blind eye and ignore the horrors of what is going on in your country. Call for the postponement of the Geneva 2 conference until the basis for its success is well established. Call for a national conference that includes all Syrians, including politicians, militants, Islamists, and democrats. Let us all agree to save Syria, and let us leave further disagreements and arguments until after the safety of Syria and its survival as a state and nation are ensured.”